No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity.

No Plague Near Your Tent: Reading Psalm 91 During a Global Pandemic

By William R. Osborne 

It is not often in human history that words like plague and pestilence become household terminology, but here we are. As strange as these words feel on our tongues, they are not as uncommon in the Bible. For example, Psalm 91 speaks directly to the notion of plague or pestilence three times, boldly claiming, “For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” (v. 3), “You will not fear . . . the pestilence that stalks in darkness” (v. 6), and finally, “No evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent” (v. 10). While we as Christians glory in the declarations of the psalm, we can’t help but notice the current “plague” creeping ever closer to our neighborhoods and homes. Does Psalm 91 make promises that are not being fulfilled? How do we read Psalm 91 during a global pandemic?

Images of Comfort

While the original setting that gave rise to this psalm eludes us, the first-person statement in v. 2 reveals that the author speaks these words of hope and comfort as one who has personally experienced refuge and security by trusting in God in the midst of fearful circumstances. Indeed, Psalm 91 opens with a beautiful picture of God’s people dwelling in the shelter and shadow of the Lord. We are thrust into a metaphorical world where God is a refuge, God is a fortress, God’s faithfulness is a shield, and God even has wings that provide security.

The important thing to remember here is that the psalmist is creating figurative relationships between God and the created world that forge a new reality for the fearful. These creative images draw us out of our fear-entrenched perceptions into a new world that redefines our source of protection and peace. Verse 3 plays into this figurative imagery by likening us to a bird that will escape the net of the “fowler,” a term used to describe a bird-catcher in ancient times. In a parallel line, we are told “he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.” Just as the first line of this verse should be understood as figurative language communicating a general picture of deliverance, so should the second.

The mention of pestilence in v. 6 is also imbedded in a poetic structure that leads us away from forcing the language into a straightforward reading. Verses 5 and 6 are in a parallel structure that looks like this:

A – You will not fear the terror of the night,

B – nor the arrow that flies by day

A’ – nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

B’ – nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

The intentional parallel between night and day in v. 5 is picked up and developed in v. 6 with the ideas of darkness and noonday. Poetically, phrases like “night and day” or “dark and light” are called merisms. A merism is when an author poetically uses opposite terms to figuratively communicate a total or complete concept. Consequently, like the reference in v. 3, the language of v. 6 should not be stripped of its poetic and figurative quality.

Read the rest here.

Prayer for the #Coronavirus Situation

As we are aware, the Coronavirus is affecting people all over the world and many are panicking. Yes, we are to be concerned with this situation, but rather than letting fear rule our lives right now, take the time to read the excellent, common-sense advice from Dr. James Robb (a Virologist and Pathologist) about taking care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also a need for mighty prayer for and about this situation. The prayer below was in my latest Pocket Testament League newsletter.

Prayer for COVID-19

David Collum
CEO, The Pocket Testament League
www.ptl.org

I invite you to pray for our country, the world, in fact every individual, to be delivered from COVID-19.

President Donald Trump has asked, that “no matter where you be, I encourage you to turn toward prayer…”

If I could be with you, in a global room, praying, I would no doubt hear our multitude of prayers rising to God’s throne-room. I invite you to pray for our country, the world, in fact every individual, to be delivered from COVID-19. I invite you to pray for our leaders in authority over us: our president, our governors, our legislatures and our courts, both federal and state.

Because we cannot be together, I offer the prayer below:

Almighty God, I praise you as the creator of our universe, our planet, and this good land that you have graciously given us as our heritage.

I pray that I may always prove myself mindful of your love and goodness, and that I will be glad to do your will.

Lord, I pray today for this world, for our nation, for every single person who has been created in your image, to be delivered from this global disease.

Father, your Word in Isaiah 59:1, tells us, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;”

Father, your Word goes onto say in verse 2, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Father, by your Holy Spirit convict my mind and heart of my sin, that I may repent and run to you for forgiveness offered by and through the precious blood of your Son.

Father, by your Holy Spirit, turn the hearts of all people to you. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Father, bless our leaders: our president, our governors, our federal and state legislatures and courts. Fill them with strength and wisdom. Spur them on to truth and righteousness.

Father, finally, I pray that our faith in you never fail, that we number our days, that we live as people of hope, whose home is with you, and that we keep our eyes fixed on your Son, the author and perfecter of our faith, in whose mighty Name we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Read the common-sense advice from Dr. James Robb here.